Statement of Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director, Indigenous Environmental Network
Red Butte Gathering, Arizona
July 25, 2009
Ceremonial responsibilities back here in Minnesota have changed my path from being with you today at the gathering near the sacred Red Butte. When Carletta Tilousi contacted me inviting me to participate and be a speaker, it took me back during the early 1990’s when a number of Native people spoke up against environmental injustices taking place in Indian Country.
This was a time when private toxic and nuclear waste industry was making inroads into our lands tempting our elected tribal leadership with promises of economic benefits by volunteering to host toxic and nuclear waste dumps on our lands.
It was the voices of our Native people throughout Turtle Island, the ones that still retained our traditions and respect of our Original Instructions that stood up in resistance to toxic and nuclear colonialism.
It was the voices of people such as Carletta and the people at Havasupai, Vivian Jake with the Kaibab Paiute near Fredonia, and the grassroots Dine’ at Dilkon Chapter near Winslow, Arizona that were the voices that later lead to the formation of a network of Indigenous Peoples fighting for the protection of our sacred environment.
It was in 1990, in Dilkon on the Navajo reservation that the Indigenous Environmental Network was formed and later reaffirmed at a gathering at the sacred Bear Butte in South Dakota.
I remember when representatives from Havasupai attended the 1993 Indigenous Environmental Network Protecting Mother Earth conference in Sac and Fox Oklahoma and again in 1999, the then chairman of Havasupai Rex Tilousi attended the IEN Protecting Mother Earth conference near the sacred Mt. Taylor in New Mexico.
So, in honor of the Havasupai, the Indigenous Environmental Network stands with you in struggle and in defense of your Indigenous rights to protect your culture and spiritual life-ways that are tied to the sacred Red Butte and the sacred water that flows within your historical territories that has sustained your people since time immemorial.
Each of you here, as people who are indigenous to these lands and territories of Turtle Island, are the Indigenous Environmental Network – and we must always stand with one voice, one mind in defense of the sacredness of our Earth Mother.
IEN stands with you saying NO! to any further uranium mining. The risks are too high within a mining technology that cannot guarantee the true protection from contamination of water, air, the soils, animals and people.
I would like to quickly mention the need for all Tribes, our Tribal Councils, elders, and youth to get involved with climate legislation that is taking place in Washington, D.C. Even though the Senate Environmental Committee is delaying work on its climate bill until September there is still plenty of industry action going on behind the scenes. Some Republicans are pushing for their own climate and energy plan. It calls for $50 billion more in taxpayer loan guarantees for new nuclear reactor construction; a doubling of taxpayer spending on dangerous reprocessing technologies, and a formal Congressional intent to build 100 new reactors in the next 20 years.
What will this mean to the Havasupai and other Tribes living within uranium resources? It will mean the nuclear industry will need more uranium to fuel its reactors.
We need Tribal Leaders to act now, while decisions are being made behind doors by environmental organizations, by the nuclear and energy industry and by politicians. Utilize our government-to-government relationship with the United States by telling your Senators that a climate bill that provides taxpayer subsidies to nuclear power would not only be ineffective at reducing carbon emissions, it is unacceptable. There is a danger that too many Democrats seem willing to compromise on nuclear power in order to get a climate bill passed.
IEN needs your involvement to make sure the Senate climate bill isn’t hijacked by the nuclear power industry. Tell President Obama to stand firm against Senate efforts to spend taxpayer money on nuclear power. Nuclear power is not clean energy.
With all of us working and mobilizing together, we can stop this nuclear nonsense and begin building an energy policy for our future, one that is nuclear-free and carbon-free.
We must all recognize that climate change is real; just ask our brothers and sisters of the Arctic region where their sea ice is melting each day. We must recognize that global warming is a result of the unsustainable, over-consumption of fossil fuels, particularly in the North – within the backyard of this country called the United States of America.
We must recognize that corporate-driven economic globalization further contributes to global warming due to unsustainable production, consumption and trade.
We must reject false solutions to climate change including bio/agro-fuels, carbon trading and offsetting, nuclear power, large hydro dams and carbon capture and storage. These are not true solutions, but green washing tactics that promotes dangerous business-as-usual fossil fuel extraction from coal, oil, gas to unconventional fossil fuels such as oil shale and the tar sands, with governmental plans for building more polluting coal fired power plants and oil refineries.
We must demand a moratorium on new oil, coal, uranium and gas exploration and the immediate implementation of transition programs to phase out existing nuclear activities and fossil fuel. We must push policies based upon leaving fossil fuels and uranium in the ground.
We must demand of Congress to implement legislation calling for full implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples including implementation of the provisions of Free, Prior and Informed Consent.
There is a direct relationship between the denial of Native land and water rights, along with the appropriation without consent of Native Peoples’ natural resources, of our sacred areas, and the causes of global climate change today. Examples include deforestation, contamination of land and water by pesticides and industrial waste, toxic and radioactive poisoning, military and mining impacts.
The four elements of fire, water, earth and air that sustain all Life are being destroyed and misused by the modern world. Because of our relationship with our lands, waters and natural surroundings which has sustained us since time immemorial, we carry the knowledge and ideas that the world needs today. We know how to live with this land: we have done so for thousands of years. We are a powerful spiritual people. It is this spiritual connection to Mother Earth, Father Sky, and all Creation that is lacking in the rest of the world.
We must remember that our extended family includes our Mother Earth, Father Sky, and our brothers and sisters, the animal, fish and plant life. We must speak for the plants, for the fish, for the animals, for the rest of Creation. It is our responsibility, given to us by our Creator, to speak on their behalf to the rest of the world.
For the future of our children, for the future of Mother Earth and Father Sky, we must educate ourselves on these issues and organize and take action to protect the sacredness of our Mother Earth. The welfare and well-being of our future generation is at stake.
Indigenous Environmental Network
P.O. Box 485
Bemidji, MN 56619